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Common Types of Cancer

There are over 100 types of cancer – most are named for where they start in the body (lung cancer, breast cancer). Others have scientific names (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma), and some are named after the person who first discovered them, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma.

This list is an overview of the most common types of cancer. For a more comprehensive list, and to find out more about each type, visit the Canadian Cancer Society site.



This is the most common type of cancer. It starts in cells that make up the skin or in the tissues that line organs such as the liver or kidneys. The most common type of carcinoma affecting NAN moms is breast cancer.




These types of cancers form in connective tissue – the cells that connect or support other tissue such as bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat and blood vessels.




These cancers form in the lymphocytes, which are the infection-fighting blood cells of the immune system in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other areas. It’s different from leukemia – leukemia starts in blood-forming cells in bone marrow, while lymphoma starts in the lymphocytes.

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. They each affect a different type of lymphocyte, grow differently, and respond differently to treatment.


Multiple myeloma


This type of blood cancer starts in bone marrow, affecting white blood cells that are part of the immune system. The abnormal cells grow out of control and crowd out the normal, healthy ones, forming tumours in bones all through the body. (Multiple myeloma refers to the presence of more than one tumour.)




This cancer starts in the cells that make melanin, which gives skin, hair and eyes their colour. Most melanomas form on the skin, but they can also form in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye.


Brain and spinal cord tumours


Brain and spinal cord tumours happen when abnormal cells grow out of control in the brain and spine. Brain tumours rarely spread to other parts of the body, but when they grow, they can destroy normal brain tissue, causing severe symptoms that can be disabling and life-threatening.





This is a malignant tumour that starts in the cells of the colon or rectum. It is a cancerous tumour that can spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. The colon and rectum are parts of the large intestine and the digestive tract. Colon and rectal cancers are grouped together as colorectal cancer because these organs are made of the same tissues and there isn’t a clear border between them.






Ovarian cancer starts in the cells of the ovary. The ovaries are the two organs in a woman’s reproductive system that produces eggs. Cancerous ovarian tumours are grouped by the type of cells that the cancer starts in. A malignant tumour is a group of cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue, and metastasize